On March 14, 2018, took place the session entitled Communication for social change and intercultural mediation in the Mediterranean organized by the inter-university program of IEMed, Aula Mediterrània, at the Institute of Catalan Studies of Barcelona.

The aforementioned session was presented and moderated by Teresa Velázquez, Professor of Journalism and Academic Coordinator of the Master’s Crossing the Mediterranean: Towards Investment and Integration (MIM) at the UAB; and with the participation of Çiğdem Bozdağ (Professor of the Department of New Media, Faculty of Communication, Kadir Has University, Istanbul), Helena Nassif (Executive Director of Resources of Cultural Organization, Beirut) and Laia Vila (Delegate in the Maghreb Region) of NOVACT, Barcelona).

The meeting is part of the interdisciplinary academic seminar held on 13 and 14 March 2018; complementary to the cycle of conferences (2017-2018) organized by the interuniversity program of IEMed. The Seminar brought together specialists who presented their latest research linked to the Arab and Mediterranean world. The empowerment of women, immigrant entrepreneurship, religious minorities and freedom of expression in Arab-Islamic societies or the influence of China in the Mediterranean were just some of the issues discussed in this edition.

Communication for social change and intercultural mediation in the Mediterranean. From left to right, Çiğdem Bozdağ, Teresa Velázquez, Helena Nassif and Laia Vila.

With her presentation ¿Social networks as a space for social interaction in Turkey ?, Professor Çiğdem Bozdağ deals with the subject of intercultural communication between different groups in social media in Turkey. Especially in Istanbul, a cosmopolitan city of more than 15 million inhabitants in which diversity enables extensive research on usage, the way in which groups are built, the relationships between users and the reasons that lead to population groups to socialize and establish relationships through social networks.

The social contact between them generates a series of reciprocal relationships and feelings that allow the study of issues related to social psychology and situations prior to this type of relationship. Moment in the play a fundamental role preconceived stereotypes between groups and the degree of exposure to public opinion to which individuals are subject, both with respect to other groups, as in their own. The differences are articulated as a way of classifying the subject in a specific group. During social contact, the individual will develop a psychology different from the initial one that facilitates their integration into the community.

Social media has an enormous potential to provide social spaces of contact and diversity, which, yes, certainly foster mutual understanding, they are also for hurtful comments. Users tend to avoid people with different opinions. Tendency that leads to creating contexts of social networks increasingly homogeneous. The fear of what is different spreads in many countries and leads to situations of intolerance and self-censorship. This is the case of the Arab Spring, which begins with the support of social networks for civil demonstrations; followed by an instrumentalization of them by governments to prosecute, control and threaten people through legal proceedings. All this is accompanied by censorship in critical publications, blocking of websites or manipulation of public opinion. Such pressure leads to the use of instant messaging and the creation of closed groups, which also end up being homogeneous.

Helena Nassif, presents her Questions on cultural mobility and migration across the Mediterranean between theory and practice. In his talk he deals with the theme of coffee, as Moralizing Space in Beirut: Television and Coffee, culture during Ramadan, fruit of his research for the work of 2016 Moralising Space in Beirut: Television and Coffee Culture During Ramadan in Sabry, Tarik and Khalil . Joe F. Arab Cultural Times: Media, The Temporal and Publicness. London: I.B. Tauris

Coffee culture is at the heart of the vibrant city, its social and political life as early as 1943 and until the start of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). In that moment of independence and prosperity, Beirut experienced an increase in population. The city grew physically allowing it to take charge of the influx of immigrants and refugees from neighboring countries governed by unstable policies. All these changes supported the increase of modern cafés in which political activists, intellectuals, artists, journalists and locals spent their time. After the war, in 1990, the coffee culture became a mixture of local establishments and new cafés belonging to international chains. The disagreements and tensions that unleashed the struggle were not entirely resolved. Coffee provides society in times of tension and political instability, a place for discussion, but also for recreation.

Cafes are also places for socialization and debate. Café Rawda in Beirut continues to be a good example of this, despite having television screens and the prohibition of the sale and consumption of alcohol in the establishment; change that has led to a differentiation of the clientele between conservatives and progressives. The good reception of coffee is given by the idealization of the image of the past, the preservation of the old, of the memory, which produces a nostalgic feeling that knows no social sector, nor political tendency, nor religion. Gathering heterogeneous groups in the same space in this way.

Laia Vila resides between Barcelona and Morocco since 2010, date from which she works in the social sector and international relations, both public and private. Specialist in the Arab world, he presents his paper The participation of civil society in the prevention of extremist violence: the Case of Tunisia. (The participation of civil society in the prevention of violent extremisms: the case of Tunisia).

The European Union is investing especially in Tunisia, the scene of the Arab Spring, in which, however, the growing number of violent extremist groups and terrorist attacks, which the government is trying to end since 2015 through the implementation of antiterrorist measures of questionable effectiveness. In addition, the dumping of money in support of civil society projects reveals a lack of coordination between initiatives that does not help to improve the situation. The link between the intense work of NGOs and the academic world would be an important step. The social sciences would play a fundamental role both in the understanding of reality and in its critical capacity; seeking, ultimately, alternatives and solutions that improve the reality in which they live. The problem is that, in theory, it seems simple, however, in practice, we find ourselves with a fragmented world, in which it is not surprising that we resort to a community of like-minded people; with the same vision of reality. A partial and distorted reality that leads to hate speech in virtual social media (online) and that can end up becoming a way to control critical opinions. Therefore, it is proposed to implement social changes in response to both action spaces, online and offline.

After a brief interview after the Communication session for social change and intercultural mediation in the Mediterranean, Laia Vila adds that more plans should be put into practice for the extermination of violent extremism, some have already been initiated by the Nations Action Plan United by Bankin Moon National Assembly. Laia proposes “attack from the inside” plans in the circles of school education, citizen participation, youth, trying to reach the most excluded categories of society. It also reminds us that Islamophobia, feminist Islamophobia, Racism, Religion and Authoritarianism are also forms of violent extremism that must be fought in the same way.